Monday, January 27, 2014

My Garden Plan

Whether you're starting from scratch or using existing garden beds, it's essential to have a garden plan. Not only will you know exactly what you have space for, you will be much better prepared (mentally, at least) when it comes time to plant.

Roma tomatoes, June 2013

Last year, I started small. This was my first year gardening outside of the container garden I had out on our apartment patio. In other words, this was my first year hand-digging the soil, laying out a bed, growing larger varieties. And to be honest, I wasn't sure how much I could handle. But as the season went on, I was craving more. I wished I had more of what I did grow and I wished I grew some things I hadn't. I can't even begin to describe my thrill at carrying in an armload of tomatoes to use for dinner compared to my dismay at my wilted, dried out tomato plant on my apartment patio. Not only was my in-ground garden much more successful, it was much more fulfilling.

Hot peppers, July 2013
I learned a lot about gardening last year. A LOT. Before I started, I poured through books and browsed the web trying to soak up as much information as I could. Some of it helped but most of it I learned from experience. You won't learn from a book that those pepper plants you bought at the Farmer's Market were not bell peppers, like the man insisted they were, but hot peppers. You won't learn from the web that the peas you grow will be the sweetest thing on earth and that you should have grown quadruple the amount that you did. 

Inadequate trellis and green beans, May 2013
Last year, I had a 4'x4' raised bed. This year, I will be maintaining the existing raised bed and adding another, larger 4'x7' bed. I'm going to try some things I've never grown before - onions, celery - and I'm going to continue growing my old standbys - tomatoes, green beans, peas. I'll also continue trying to grow the crops I had no success with last year - cantaloupe, carrots. And I can't wait to get started.

Cantaloupe, before crop failure, July 2013

Some suggested resources for planning out your garden:

  • Companion Planting Chart - this is by far the best companion planting chart I've found to date. It helps to know which plants can help your crop and which could potentially harm.
  • Square Foot Garden Plant Spacing Guide - I'm using this as a basis for how much seed I'll need. My plants won't be planted on a strictly square foot basis but I found this to be a help in planning.
  • Backyard Gardening: How to Grow... - a wealth of information, especially for quick reference of light requirements, water requirements, etc.
And without further ado, my garden layout for 2014:

Now all I need is spring!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Seed catalogs

Despite the fact that the ground is still frozen, buried underneath a layer of not-so-freshly fallen snow, garden planning is well under way. And for me, the toughest part of garden planning is choosing the seeds. The number of choices can be overwhelming!

Off and on over the last few weeks, I have been coming home to a seed catalog stuffed into my mailbox. Each had something to offer but after poring through each of them, I found my two favorites.

The Cook's Garden - Seeds and Plants for Gourmet Gardeners

The Cook's Garden, interesting varieties

The Cook's Garden, New for 2014

This is a beautiful catalog. The pictures are vibrant and they have quite a bit to offer. From more traditional varieties to some very exotic looking varieties, there's something for everyone in this catalog. The catalog begins with a "New for 2014" section, highlighting new varieties that the adventurous grower may want to try. Their biggest perk? The mix-and-match plants. Most other seed/plant companies force you to buy 3 or more of the same plant. Not so with The Cook's Garden. The choice is yours!

The Cook's Garden, Mix & Match
The Cook's Garden, Mix & Match Plants

Request a catalog here.

Johnny's Selected Seeds - An employee-owned company

Johnny's Selected Seeds,
Growing Information

Johnny's Selected Seeds,
Comparison Charts

I'm not sure whether to call this a catalog or an encyclopedia. This catalog is filled to the brim with information including comparison charts for varieties, germination guides, typical growth dimensions, tech tips and more than just the standard growing information. This catalog has more than just information to offer, as well. There are a lot of varieties to choose from. The choice is easy to make with the comparison charts, the keys showing which varieties are easy to grow, heirloom, container friendly, and tolerant to different weather situations.

Johnny's Selected Seeds, Comparison Chart, closer view

Johnny's Select Seeds, Growing Chart Size Comparison

I will be keeping this catalog once all of my seeds are ordered. It has a wealth of information that will prove useful as a quick reference. Big kudos to Johnny's Selected Seeds for all of the forethought that went into this catalog!

Request a catalog here